Percocet Addiction and Abuse

Percocet is a medication prescribed to relieve moderate to severe pain. It is a carefully prescribed drug that, while effective, can lead to negative outcomes like overdose, addiction, and even death when misused.

Introduction to Percocet 

This medication is a combination of two drugs: oxycodone and acetaminophen. Oxycodone is an opioid, making it have a high potential for abuse. Opioids include other addictive substances like heroin, morphine, hydromorphone, and fentanyl. These drugs are involved in the current opioid crisis in the United States and other parts of the world. 

Acetaminophen is a non-opioid drug that reduces fever and moderate levels of pain. It is commonly found as the active ingredient in over-the-counter brands like Tylenol to treat headaches and backaches. Although this common drug is not addictive, it has its own health hazards.

Effects of Oxycodone on the Brain

The oxycodone component of Percocet works as all other opioid drugs do. Research shows that when oxycodone enters the bloodstream and reaches the brain, it binds to naturally occurring opioid receptors on the surface of neurons. Neurons are important cells in the brain that transmit information in the form of electrical signals. 

Once this binding occurs, a cascade of reactions is set off that produces pain relief and pleasure via the release of dopamine. This is the same biochemical process that produces pleasure from eating food or having sex. When a person takes oxycodone without experiencing severe pain, this reward process becomes activated, and this is where the trouble begins. 

Some parts of the brain hold memories associated with the environment and circumstances a person was in when the drug was taken. These memories are called conditioned associations or cues. Cues can involve people, places, or things that remind a person of past use, putting a person in treatment or recovery at risk of relapse. 

Common Side Effects of Use

The most frequently observed side effects of using Percocet are: 

  • dizziness
  • itchy skin
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • euphoria
  • dysphoria
  • constipation
  • mood changes
  • lightheadedness
  • drowsiness/sedation

Serious Side Effects of Use

Like other opioids, Percocet may cause serious side effects, including life-threatening breathing problems, particularly during the first 24-72 hours of treatment and when the dose is increased. The following symptoms warrant immediate medical attention: 

  • slowed breathing
  • shortness of breath
  • long pauses between breaths

This drug can have an additive effect when taken with other depressant medications like other opioid pain relievers, benzodiazepines, and alcohol, resulting in dangerous conditions like sedation and coma. Alcohol consumption poses an additional risk of liver damage and failure due to its interaction with acetaminophen.  

It is critical to note that Percocet should be taken exactly as prescribed. Percocet comes in tablet form and should be swallowed whole. Tablets should not be chewed or broken, crushed, or dissolved before consumption, as this can result in the body receiving too much of the drug too fast. Misuse of Percocet in this way can and has resulted in fatal overdoses. 

Percocet Withdrawal Experience 

When a client wants to stop taking Percocet that they have been prescribed, it is important that they consult with a medical professional first. This also applies to individuals that obtained Percocet through illegal means. Stopping Percocet suddenly can cause the onset of uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms about 8-12 hours after the last dose. Withdrawal typically lasts a few days up to a week. 

These symptoms are similar to other opioids. Their onset and severity depend on how far an individual is into the withdrawal process. The first couple of days are marked by bodily aches and pains, nausea, cravings, irritability, restlessness, extreme sweating, and so on. The potential for relapsing is very high due to the extreme discomfort. 

These effects peak within the next few days and are accompanied by more aches and pains, shaking, cramping, and vomiting. When the withdrawal period approaches about a week, these physical symptoms subside, and psychological symptoms become more pronounced. A person at this stage may experience feelings of anxiety, depression, shame, and guilt. 

Withdrawal Can Drag On

For some people overcoming Percocet dependency and/or addiction, withdrawal symptoms can last longer than a week. This condition is called post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS) and can last for one to two years. A person with PAWS may experience increased anxiety and depression, trouble concentrating and feeling pleasure, a lack of energy, poor sleep, and mood swings.

Due to the physical and psychological challenges of withdrawing from opioids like Percocet, clients need to be medically supervised to allow for a safe detoxification process that reduces the chance of a person relapsing. This procedure is called medical detox. Percocet addiction can later be treated using medication-assisted treatment (MAT). To learn more about both programs at Laguna Shores, click here.

Finding Effective, Compassionate Care 

With all the drug treatment facilities out there, it can be hard to find one that works for a loved one struggling with addiction to Percocet. Opioids are a huge problem in the U.S., bringing financial, physical, and emotional devastation to the lives of those addicted and their families. 

To defeat addiction and live a life that’s not only sober but happy and rewarding, you or your loved one need help from people who are not only clinically trained but who understand what their clients are going through. 

Laguna Shores Recovery has a large alumni program, with most of our practicing clinicians have experienced the lows of addiction. Finding care that will get you better and change your life is possible. Learn more about our programs here.

Percocet is a prescription medication used to treat pain and can lead to addiction. Laguna Shores is a treatment facility that focuses on keeping our staff-to-client ratios low to ensure you get the highest quality care. Learn more today by calling us at (954) 329-1118.